Book Tag – 2017 Mid-Year Reading Recap

I found this book tag on Carissa Reads it All and decided to give it a try (though I made changes for my own purposes). (You can read the original tag here.) Just to note, I’ll be discussing books I’ve read this year in general, so I’m not limiting my choices to books that were released in 2017 as some were not.

So with that out of the way, let’s get started! 🙂

1. Best book you’ve read in 2017 so far.
Thrawn by Timothy Zahn
Honestly, I would lump together all of Zahn’s Thrawn-related novels (meaning any novel that featured or mentioned Thrawn as a character). But if I had to choose, I’d go with this most recent work, which serves as Thrawn’s origin story (concerning his Imperial service, that is). Grand Admiral Thrawn is an outstanding character all the way around thanks to his tactical expertise, sharp intellect, careful attention to detail, unique appreciation for art, and intriguing cultural background. It almost makes you feel bad that he’s considered a villain because he possesses a lot of attributes that would have made him an awesome good guy. Not to mention that, despite his incredible smarts, Thrawn isn’t all-knowing, and I enjoyed this aspect to his character here as it keeps him from becoming too good to be true or too larger than life. Also, as a quick side note, I liked how Zahn used a light hand when it came to depicting the prejudice Thrawn occasionally faces because he’s a non-Human. Zahn could have ruined the story by overplaying this; instead he incorporates it as an inherent aspect of Thrawn’s development and leaves it at that, not trying to use the novel as a social justice soapbox. In fact, I was so impressed by Thrawn that he now has claimed the number one spot as my all-time favorite book villain. Yes, Grand Admiral Thrawn has officially bumped the Dark Lord himself, Lord Voldemort, out of first place! 🙂

2. Worst book you’ve read in 2017 so far.
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
I hated this book and not for the reasons you might expect. While I don’t automatically have a problem with books that tackle hefty issues like bullying and suicide, I do take issue with stories that don’t present good moral takeaways about those topics. I appreciated how the novel attempts to show how our actions or lack thereof can impact others, but there was too much here that I didn’t like. For starters, Hannah was a terrible person as she’s mean-spirited and lacks good common sense. While there was no excuse for her to have been treated the way that she was, she could have spared herself much grief by not allowing herself to be in compromising situations in the first place. For example, in one scene, Hannah is raped in a hot tub by a male classmate. But had she decided beforehand not to go to that particular friend’s house and NOT to get into a hot tub (wearing only her underwear) with a boy she knew was trouble, the assault probably would have never happened. There are other instances like this throughout the novel that caused me to have a strong dislike for Hannah as she could have kept herself out of a lot of situations where trouble was just waiting to happen. Likewise, there are no redeemable adult characters here and parental figures are either faceless or non-existent. Worst of all, Hannah’s caustic attitude is devoid of any sense of forgiveness, any sense of personal responsibility, any indication that she learned anything from her mistakes, or any common sense. In short, while I can see how this novel might serve as a conversation starter for some teens, I, personally, couldn’t immerse myself in it and didn’t find much (if any) good to take away from it.

3. Best sequel you’ve read in 2017 so far.
Wires and Nerve, Vol. 1 by Marissa Meyer
While this book technically doesn’t count as a direct sequel to the Lunar Chronicles series, it still picks up the stories of the series’ main characters, so I count it as sequel-ish. These characters transition well from novel to graphic novel, and I think this new medium allows for Meyer to continue their stories in a more serialized fashion while not sacrificing what I’ve come to know and love about my favorite characters (which would be all of them!). This particular volume showcases Kiko, Cinder’s robotic comrade, and it gives her a great chance to shine and step up from just being a cool sidekick character. Overall, I thought this was just a good, fun adventure story and I definitely look forwarding to reading more. (By the way, the cover is gorgeous in person as it has a nice shine to it and the colors are very saturated, vibrant, and eye-catching.)

4. Worst sequel you’ve read in 2017 so far.
Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo
I enjoyed this trilogy’s first novel, Shadow and Bone, despite the fact I’ve seen that type of plot done before. But the world building, magic, and the sinister yet alluring Darkling (who I kept envisioning as Kylo Ren from The Force Awakens – not a bad mental image, by the way) kept me engaged. However, its follow-up novel, Siege and Storm, was a disappointment as it resorted to the usual YA fantasy cliches I’ve read a million times over. Unfortunately, it was enough to discourage me from reading the final book, so I read a plot summary instead. Needless to say, I’m glad I didn’t bother with Ruin and Rising as it sounds like I would not have enjoyed that at all. As a whole, I think I’m done with YA. While I don’t mind reading books with teens as lead characters, more often than not the plot devices and elements that probably attract teens only infuriate or bore me because they’re either rife with drama or are nothing new or unique.

5. Most anticipated release for the second half of 2017.
Here’s Negan by Robert Kirkman
This is a collection of the previously released series of short comics for Image+ that detailed the backstory of The Walking Dead‘s most notorious villain. While I’ve managed to read some of the comics online, I haven’t been able to find them all, especially the later ones; so when I saw they were all going to be released in a single volume, I was super-excited! Negan ranks in my top three favorite book villains of all time (in proud company with Grand Admiral Thrawn), so I can’t wait to read his backstory in full. (Based on what I’ve seen so far, some of who Negan is in the principle comics and even the TV show makes a lot more sense in light of who he was before the apocalypse.) I know I’m not supposed to root for a villain, but I can’t help myself. #TeamNegan 🙂

6. Biggest disappointment of 2017 so far.
Hunted by Meagan Spooner
I wanted to like this one but just couldn’t. First, I don’t care for Stockholm Syndrome-esque “love” stories because they’re all shades of questionable (and what ultimately made me sit this aside was when the Beast blurs the lines between hate and love, torment and affection). Likewise, the lead character is a card-carrying feminist as she sees marriage and children as traps to be avoided rather than lifestyle choices that are perfectly legitimate, and the story’s pacing (despite this being a short read) was too slow. Lastly, the author’s response to one reader’s legitimate quesiton about content in this novel was in bad taste, and I just can’t respect a writer who treats her readers in such a snarky manner. Even if Ms. Spooner doesn’t see the value in knowing about a novel’s content (something an older thread on the comments above reflected but has since been deleted), some of us readers (myself included) like to know what to expect, especially in terms of sexual content, before we dive into a story lest we inadvertently spend good money on smut. Her attitude, in my opinion, was not cool and, for that, I will never read anything penned by Ms. Spooner in the future.

7. Best surprise read of 2017 so far.
News of the World by Paulette Jiles
I normally don’t peruse Westerns: not that I harbor hatred for the genre but it’s just not something I gravitate to. Yet the cover attracted my attention and the blurb intrigued me, so I decided to check it out. I’m so glad I did! This falls into an on-the-road type of story where Captain Jefferson Kidd, a grizzled war veteran, assumes temporary guardianship of a young girl who has recently been rescued by the Army after she had been captured by an Indian tribe years ago. The set up is what you’d expect: Captain Kidd is a gruff, tough, weathered man (my mind kept conjuring up images of Sam Elliott), and his young charge is completely ignorant of the ways of White civilization. Both struggle with their shared predicament as they venture to reunite her with relatives, and it makes for some awesome drama and genuinely touching moments. I loved their relationship as it is initially based on a sense of respect and loyalty to each other but later evolves. (And, no, absolutely nothing inappropriate happens – their relationship stays strictly a paternal figure-daughter-figure pairing.) The ending was exactly what I was rooting for and it warmed my heart. This was a surprise for me because, even though it’s technically a Western, it’s not the typical cowboys-and-horses type of story. Instead, it’s a touching tale about two unlikely souls who find solidarity in an ever-changing world.

8. One book you read this year (so far) that made you sad.
Dividing Eden by Joelle Charbonneau
Seeing as this is yet another YA fantasy (a genre that finally struck out for me this year due to its share of massive disappointments), I wasn’t expecting much. But I love it when I’m surprised! What made this novel work for me was its focus on a brother-sister pairing rather than the usual love triangle or worst enemies-to-love interests tropes. This was a speedy read and the dynamic between twins Carys and Andreus cranked up the tension. Also, there were some surprises lurking about, especially regarding one of the twins, that I wasn’t expecting. What makes this novel sad for me is Carys and Andreus’ strained relationship. Without revealing spoilers, I’ll just say that their bond is fraught with secrets that must be kept out of the public eye. However, while one twin works tirelessly to ensure the other twin isn’t exposed, the protective twin’s sacrificial nature and good heart are often taken advantage of by the protected twin. Normally, YA fantasy-lite court intrigue is a guaranteed snooze-fest for me, so I was thoroughly pleased with and surprised by this book.

9. One book you read this year (so far) that made you happy.
The Blue Castle by L. M. Montgomery
I’ve read Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables series a long time ago and I had no idea she penned stories for adults (meaning the lead characters are adults rather than children or teens). This novel appeared in my GoodReads recommendations and the blurb intrigued me, so I decided to check it out. This was one of those rare novels where I found myself standing almost shoulder to shoulder with the lead character. Here, Valancy is an older single lady who does her best to fight her frustrations over being single and in her dealings with her stiff upper lipped family and small town. In order to escape her depression and daily disappointments, Valancy creates an imaginary world where she dwells in her self-created Blue Castle and falls madly in love with imagined suitors. However, after being diagnosed with a life-threatening condition, Valancy decides to make a change in her life. This coaxes her from her self-created bubble as she’s free to let her dreams soar. A sweet love story comes into the mix but I won’t divulge anything further lest I spoil the story. Overall, this novel will undoubtedly be in my top three favorites for the year. This is a classic, delightful story that was a joy to read, and I literally hugged this book upon finishing it.

10. Worst book cover of this year so far.
The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh
To be fair, I wouldn’t label this cover the “worst” but it’s visually annoying to me. (Just to note, this is the hardcover edition as the paperback edition looks vastly different.) At first glance, it seems as if the image of the model can be seen in full if you remove the red dust jacket. However, the dust jacket’s cutouts are not actually cutouts but imprinted into the paper itself (at least that’s how my copy was designed). That’s a shame because I think the cover would have been more effective either just showcasing the model or having the cutout design alone. But to have the central image obstructed from view struck me as a weak design decision.

11. Best book cover of this year so far.
Roar by Cora Carmack
After learning that this YA fantasy novel was penned by a romance writer, I wasn’t expecting much. However, I was pleasantly surprised as the magic system is creative and most of the characters are fun (though some of the romance-driven scenes linger a tad too long and border on becoming sappy). However, it was the cover that really caught my attention as it’s one that looks better in person. For starters, it has three dimensional elements to it so the title stands out, which is always a nice touch. Also, though you can’t see it here, the art is actually a panorama that wraps around the entire dust jacket so it’s one continuing scene rather than a solitary snapshot. Likewise, I love the organic color combination of pink, purple, green, grey, and white, and I think this works to establish the story’s overall tone and magical setting, which is chiefly outdoors. Overall, the story itself was good but the cover is excellent!

And, last but not least…

12. Fictional crush of 2017.

Grand Admiral Thrawn.
Because why not! 😉

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